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DEMON WIND (1989)

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"It happened on a Sunday. All the families were in church – except the Carters – and they never missed church. So that evening, I went up to see if they were all right. And – God help me – I saw them. I saw---"
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Director: Charles Philip Moore

Starring: Eric Larson, Francine Lapensee, Rufus Norris, Mark David Fritsche, Bobby Johnston, Lynn Clark, Jack Vogel, Steven Quadros, Sherry Bendorf, Kym Santelle, Stella Kastner

Screenplay: Charles Philip Moore

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Synopsis: A dead body burns on a cross. Another lies on the lawn. Inside a barricaded house, a woman sings a hymn. Suddenly, a strange force attacks the house, while voices tell the woman that she cannot keep them out. The woman calls to her husband, asking whether he has the daggers and the diary, but when he approaches she sees that he is possessed. As her demonic companion attacks her, the woman smashes a glass globe, and a huge explosion rips through the cottage…. Many years later, a young couple drives through the countryside. When Elaine (Francine Lapensee) complains that Corey (Eric Larson) has barely spoken to her all day, Corey confesses that he found his long-missing father. He further tells her that, since that meeting, a voice in his head has been telling him to get to his grandparents’ farm as quickly as possible. The two pull into a gas station to ask directions to the farm; Corey is disturbed to find that he recognises the place from a dream. He asks the gas station’s owner, Harcourt (Rufus Norris), how to get to the farm, but Harcourt denies that such a place exists. Corey and Elaine go inside for a drink, and try to get more information from the woman who works there, but Harcourt interrupts before she can tell them anything. Four more of Corey’s friends, who agreed to accompany him to the farm, arrive: Dell (Bobby Johnston) and Terri (Lynn Carter), and Jack (Mark David Fritsche) and Bonnie (Sherry Bendorf). Corey confesses to the group that his father cut his wrists the day after he found him. Further, he tells them that his whole family disappeared from the farm four days after his father’s birth. After his father visited the farm just after Corey’s own birth, he never returned home. Corey again tries unsuccessfully to get information from Harcourt, who tells him that his family’s farm belongs only to the dead. Dell insults Harcourt, who pulls a gun. Corey cools the situation down, and Harcourt tells him that he went to the farm himself the day the Carter family vanished, finding them all dead. Corey tells Harcourt that they are going there anyway. When the group finds the farm, they discover one skeleton hanging from a cross and another on the ground. Corey has a vision, and suddenly knows that one of the victims was his uncle. Although the farmhouse is a ruin, the group sees it whole and intact. Reluctantly, they go inside. One of the walls is covered with satanic incantations. When Bonnie reads one aloud, a powerful wind suddenly rips through the cottage….

Comments: Overall, Demon Wind is a pretty poor horror film. The pity of it is, it could easily have been so much better. Watching it is a frustrating experience. There are a scattering of imaginative touches here, enough to keep raising hopes that the film will turn out to be more than just another Evil Dead rip-off; but again and again the story turns from them to fall back upon the same old lazy, dead-teen, spam-in-a-cabin cliches.

Nothing illustrates the film’s shortcomings so well as its opening sequence. After a marvellously creepy and atmospheric pan from the dead bodies outside, across the jumble of family mementos and religious paraphernalia inside, to the cabalistic symbols drawn upon the floor (all accompanied by an unseen woman singing "Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?"), the mood is ruined when demonic possession is signalled by icky puking and boring prosthetic effects.

The best parts of Demon Wind are all in its early stages. For all the goopy effects that occur later on, there is nothing in the film more genuinely unsettling than the woman at the gas station’s non sequitur obsessing over the fate of "little Linda". Other odd little touches, like a mysterious child watching Corey and Elaine from a hilltop, or an egg that suddenly hatches to disgorge a pile of writhing worms, are also effective. Mixed in with these are a couple of sequences unexpected enough to be startling: nice girl Elaine trying to cheer Corey up by suddenly dropping her pants and showing him her underwear; and Corey’s dream, in which he appears naked to his dead grandmother (I’m no Freudian, so I think I’ll leave that one well alone). However, once the teenagers barricade themselves into the ruined farmhouse, Demon Wind settles down into the territory of we’ve-seen-it-all-before.

I said that the film rips-off The Evil Dead, and it does, but that isn’t its only source. The farmhouse stand-off is lifted directly from Night Of The Living Dead, while the "sacred daggers" are a steal from The Omen series. (There is also a demon chop-socky sequence that has more than a hint of I kick ass for the Lord! – but Demon Wind was indisputably shot first.) The teenagers are the usual bunch of stereotypes (the Hero, the Jock, the Wise-Guy, the Nerd, the Slut, and so on), remarkable only for their actual number, and for the fact that, when their ranks have been thinned out after the first night at the farm, a couple of new recruits simply show up out of the blue ("Hi, sorry we’re late."). Although Demon Wind was released in ’89 or ’90, it must have been shot earlier: this mob is so mid-eighties, it’s hilarious (particularly Bonnie: singlet top under off-the-shoulders jumper, stretch pants, leg-warmers, big hair held up with a clip--- Ah, don’t you miss it?).

The acting of this crowd is no better or worse than that of most of their horror film brethren, but it must be said that they are very poorly served by their director. This is most obvious when Bonnie is attacked by a demon child, and turned into a bloody-faced doll that subsequently bursts into flames. Her friends – including her boyfriend – barely bat an eyelid. Once the siege sequence begins, Demon Wind becomes really tedious. The teenagers behave pretty much as you would expect, i.e., really stupidly, wandering around on their own so that they can be picked off one by one. The rest of the film (and it’s long for one of this type, nearly 100 minutes) consists of the same makeup and puking effects over and over and over again. There is also a squib effect - when a demon is shot, the wound bursts forth with nasty yellow custardy stuff – which the film-makers must have thought was really cool. If we see it once, we see it a hundred times. The demons all have reverb voices, too, so much so that during the "climactic" sequence, you cannot understand a single thing that anyone says. Corey gets "demonised" at one point, and ends up looking like a refugee from Alien Nation. The film stumbles to a supposed conclusion via some really tacky lighting effects, and then we learn that the evil hasn’t really been defeated. Gee, what a surprise. Incredibly, Demon Wind was released both on video with a hologram box, and on laserdisc! Clearly, the lunatics have taken over the asylum….

Footnote: My God, I did it! I got all the way through reviewing a bad film called Demon Wind without making a single fart joke! Willpower….